Dialogue: Yes! We Have No Bananas
What are the political -- and taste -- implications of the food industry-created banana monoculture?
Ann Friedman: The banana as we know it is about to die out. All of the bananas we consume in the U.S. are the same varietal, and one disease could wipe them all out. As a lifelong banana-hater, though, I can't say I'm too upset about it.
Adam Serwer: That's pretty callous. Bananas are the most-eaten fruit in the country. Plus, what about all those people whose jobs depend on bananas?
Ann: OK, let me revise that. I am upset at the implications for the global food system and for people who work in the banana industry. But not about the loss of bananas themselves.
Adam: But that's no reason to hope for banana extinction. Ann Friedman doesn't care about banana workers.
Ann: False! It's just that if I had to pick one industrially farmed food to go extinct, it would be the banana. They smell gross. They taste gross. They have a gross texture.
Adam: Look, I love bananas. They're easily portable, they're sweet, and they come in their own wrapping. What other fruit does that?
Ann: Apples. Pears. Blueberries. Oranges. Lemons. Grapefruit ?
Adam: The protective skin of a banana is far superior.
Ann: But think of all the people who have been injured after slipping on this "superior" packaging.
Adam: Think about all the people who have been given hours of joy and mirth from such slippage. Also, while I respect your foolish decision not to eat bananas, you shouldn't ruin it for the rest of us.
Ann: You could argue that, because I don't eat the factory-farmed bananas that have created the monoculture (and thus the risk of extinction), I am actually doing more than you banana enthusiasts to keep this fruit around, as much as it pains me to say it.
Adam: So in order to enjoy bananas, people have to not eat them and thus not enjoy them?
Ann: If every smoothie shop in America hadn't chosen to blend a banana into every single smoothie, where would we be? We might still have bananas in 20 years! For our children to be disgusted by.
Adam: Well, I'd say it's more that lessons were not learned from the extinction of the previous popular variety of banana. We have to hold our corporate culture accountable for not insulating the banana against disease.
Ann: True. Also, apparently there was a serious downgrade in banana quality in the late 1960s, when the previous mono-culture died out.
Adam: Right, for the same reason, from the same disease! They just used another variety of banana that was immune ... but it's not immune anymore.
Ann: Maybe I would have even enjoyed pre-1968 bananas.
Adam: We were so full of hubris -- and bananas -- that we didn't see this coming. It's a terrible tragedy. Almost Shakespearean.
Ann: They're like the Austrian royal family. Dead from inbreeding.
Adam: Well, that doesn't actually mess with my whole Shakespeare thing, does it?
The Question: What Else Should the Federal Government Nationalize?
"If they want a return to the taxpayer? The marijuana trade." -- Eric Rauchway, U.C. Davis
"Iceland, which will be used as refrigerated storage space and harvested foravant-garde pop musicians." -- Reihan Salam, The Atlantic
"The Republican National Committee. It's a natural under lemon socialism; we're only taking over those enterprises with a failed business model." -- Skip Roberts, SEIU
Parody by T.A. Frank
"Our new Public-Private Investment Program will set up funds to provide a market for the legacy loans and securities that currently burden the financial system."
-- Timothy Geithner, The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2009
Tim's Treasures: NEW
toxic assets Legacy Loans: 2009 collection
Bittersweet Prime Delight: This criminally underrated loan collection offers a rich, earthy foundation of Merced, California's most promising new homeowners layered with haunting overtones of borrowers in the pulsating hub of Gainesville, Florida. Add to this an exhilarating twist of fragile yet promising revenues from the vibrant exurbs of Flint, Michigan.
Starting bid: $8 billion for the proud and privileged few ($92 billion for the rest of you)
Quality Purity Prime :This certified pre-owned legacy loan has been refurbished and outfitted with a robust core of Reno, Nevada, condominium speculators and studded with the most promising pioneers of freeway proximity residing on or near median strips of California's Interstate 5. The Quality Purity Prime legacy loan still has that special "new car" smell and promises years of consistent performance. Included is a free 1,000-year warranty from AIG, backed by the Federal Reserve printing press and the wealth of seven generations. Starting bid: $23 billion for the hawkeyed connoisseur (several billions, trillions, whatever, for the rest of you)
Spicy Southwest Sizzler: This Antelope Valley-based debt installation draws on the exceptional and lush heritage of eastern Lancaster, California, even as it subtly interweaves the resilience and charm of northern Phoenix, Arizona. This puckery pastiche of securities is backed by mortgages on some of the most cutting-edge innovations in tan stucco amid parched yet seductively abandoned remoteness. A must-buy for any financial trailblazer.
Starting bid: Let's talk. Let's do lunch. We can definitely work out something that benefits you and us. Everyone wants this "crazy but in a fun way" deal to work.
Sub-prime Super Elegance: Gird your loins, Golden State enthusiasts. This is your chance to stock up on Stockton. Indulge yourself in pure unblended sub-prime sweetness based exclusively on the seat of San Joaquin County. These multidimensional, now-you-see-them-now-you-don't securities offer you a chance to get in on the ground floor of tomorrow, Blade Runner edition, with loans on almost-completely-built mansions that stretch into thrilling, scorching panoramas of kidney-bean fields. A sub-prime yet truly prime object d'art in any visionary's portfolio.
Starting bid: If you have read this far, then cancel your transfer of funds to Lagos and immediately park them in this limited-time-only offer. We want to work with you.